Scientists have found some New Insights about Dinosaur Extinction

Scientists have found some New Insights about Dinosaur Extinction

Scientists have found some New Insights about Dinosaur Extinction
Image Credits: UC Berkeley News

The asteroid/comet impact, which took place 66 million years ago, definitely reignited the Indian volcanoes but their role in dinosaur extinction is still not clear.

A recent study, published in the journal ‘Science’, adds even more strength to the idea that the massive volcanic eruptions in India were reignited by the asteroid which smashed into the Caribbean Sea, 66 million years ago. Having said that, the researchers were unable to determine the contribution of these events to the near-simultaneous large-scale killing, which eliminated different forms of life including dinosaur extinction. The scientists from the University of Berkeley figured out the most accurate and precise dates for these intense volcanic eruptions. They also match with the K-Pg boundary, the time which marks the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Deccan Traps

The lava from these volcanoes spread in all directions for as much as 500 kilometers across the Indian continent. This resulted in massive flood basalts, some of which are almost 2 kilometers thick. Paul Renne, the Senior Author of the study who serves as the Director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, talked about the significance of this research and said,

“Now that we have dated Deccan Traps lava flows in more and different locations, we see that the transition seems to be the same everywhere. I would say, with pretty high confidence that the eruptions occurred within 50,000 years, and maybe 30,000 years, of the impact, which means they were synchronous within the margin of error. That is an important validation of the hypothesis that the impact renewed lava flows.”   

Previous Theory

Prior to this research, scientists believed that most of the lava erupted before the impact but the latest data reveals that almost 75% of the lava erupted after the impact. It came out as a massive shock for the scientific community because the entire theory of mass extinction rests on the assumption that the lava erupted before the impact. According to previous studies, the majority of the lava erupted before the impact and the gases emitted during these eruptions caused global warming within the last 400,000 years of Cretaceous Period.

During this phase, global temperatures increased at an average of 8o C. Consequently, the species of that time evolved to a warmer climate. Unfortunately, a massive wave of colder conditions hit them (either due to volcanoes or the impact) and most of the creatures failed to counter this dramatic switch. Ultimately, a mass extinction took place and a lot of species, including dinosaurs, were wiped from the fossil record of our planet. The idea of Deccan Traps lava emerging after the impact changes our scenario drastically and scientists need to reconsider their theory to match the updated dates. Courtney Sprain, a Postdoc at the University of Liverpool who is the First Author of the study, referred to that by saying,

“This changes our perspective on the role of the Deccan Traps in the K-Pg extinction. Either the Deccan eruptions did not play a role — which we think unlikely — or a lot of climate-modifying gases were erupted during the lowest volume pulse of the eruptions.”

Unclear Details

The researching team mentioned that both of these catastrophes (volcanic eruptions and the impact) delivered a one-two punch to life on Earth. Despite knowing that, they couldn’t find the exact details of their effects. Some of the gases (Sulfur Aerosols) produced by the eruptions do cause cooling effects but the presence of Methane and Carbon Dioxide assists the increase in temperature. The fact that there are no flood basalts eruptions going on today, researchers couldn’t be sure about the gases produced by them. On the other hand, the dust from the impact did block the sunlight to cool the Earth but the duration of this period is not known to anyone. Sprain elaborated the difficulty of the job in the following words:

“Both the impact and Deccan volcanism can produce similar environmental effects, but these are occurring on vastly differing timescales. Therefore, to understand how each agent contributed to the extinction event, assessing timing is key.”

The scarce amount of information about flood basalts urges Sprain and Renne to keep looking for answers in the Deccan Traps because they are still young enough to contain some useful information about the sequence, scale, and probably the cause of these eruptions.

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